“Words and actions should help to unite, and not divide, the people of our various nationalities.” Chairman Mao
Rodolfo F. Acuña
People are often insulted by my sarcasm. However, I have never taken the movement lightly – I have always been this way. In order to explain myself I go way back. Before 1969 things were straight forward, we did not have to worry about elitism. In 1968 there were only 100 Latino PhDs according to ERIC, 50 of who were Mexican Americans.
By 1970 the number of Chicano undergrads and grads had grown considerably forming our so-called vanguard class. Those believing they were in the forefront were mostly concentrated at doctoral granting institutions. The presence of graduate students brought an almost immediate change. Chicana/o studies programs at teacher training institutions had a difficult time communicating with the avant-garde whose gods were their gringo professors. The vanguardia carried the works of Gundar Frank who quickly was replaced by Wallerstein. Most were elitist. I tried to hire one of them who told me that he had not studied for a PhD to teach high school. I admit I contributed to this because I insisted that everyone teach four classes and be on campus five days a week, holding office hours.
This elitism trickled down to the community where some barrio organizations were dominated by youth. The vanguardia in this instance called Chicano Studies cultural nationalistic. On one occasion one of these organizations demanded we get rid of our mariachis. Nationalism according to them was what caused sexism and kept us in a state of under development.
Universities became centers for the new escapist elitism. Many of the vanguardia did not see the contradiction of their criticizing those beneath them with participating in sniffing of white powder. This attitude was infectious and could have easily decimated ChS programs such as SFVSC. When I assumed the chair ship, I knew the students were going to be nationalistic, unprepared and Catholic. Many new programs ignored this and they quickly joined the fishes in ocean.
Therefore, I wrote into the course of study a class on Chicanos and Religion. We purposely hired Catholic and Protestant role models. Hired many high school teachers because the primary purpose of ChS was literacy – to read, write and think critically not to regurgitate Wallerstein and Brother Karl.
We brought in an Irish Priest, a member of the IRA and Mexican nuns. We worked closely with the Newman Center. This was criticized by the vanguardia. I remember an exceptionally that long question asked me by an exceptionally bright student in the 1980s at the University of Houston: what I would say if he asked inane question about Occupied America? I told you I would tell him fuck you and encourage him to write his own book. That was and is my personality; it fit the mode of the barrio kids I was working with.
For the past 60 years, I have not changed much. Coming from an elitist high school and being treated by my teachers as special I have been in a perpetual state of revolt against pedanticism. From day one, I listened to sages such as Octavio Romano who condemned the growing professionalism of Chicano academicians. They were however aghast when I proposed that we seed future generations by giving all of our students BA’s and in this way seed a second generation of college students. Even then there were class differences between research universities and teacher training institutions.
Thankfully we outgrew this infantile behavior. Today, even many Marxist embrace spirituality. However, Catholicism left me cynical. I believe in learning from history and I do not want to repeat the babosadas of 70s and 80s. Think about it, we had no problems when we were pagans; it was only after we insisted that was one true god that we started to kill others for not believing.
This is why I am reacting so harshly when I hear ex-Marxists whose generation was part of the problem repeating their errors and opening up unnecessary arguments. It is infantile to correct others for the use of Aztec or Maya words especially when I have not studied Nahuatl or Mayan. Perhaps I am simply in the fuck you stage. Academicians or scholars as they like to be called have pretensions of elitism and without realizing it they are being destructive. I am neither a Catholic or believer, a spiritualist nor in the vanguard. I just want to teach others and in order to do that infantilism is destructive of that end.